Our Award Winning Post-doc

Nick received a big award to entice him to join our group at UBC.

The Killam trust made this cool video about him :


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Science Communication in Canada

Susan spoke to Olsy Sorokina of  BCIT’s For The Record on Evolution 107.9 about Vancouver Cafe Scientifique and science communication in Canada. Mark has presented at Vancouver Cafe Scientifique in the past and really enjoyed it. If you live in Vancouver come along in January for a few beers and see what it’s all about!

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The Chemistry of Beer

by Joel Kelly

One unofficial area of intense research in the group is the chemistry of chemists’ favourite beverage, beer! We have amassed a very large dataset on the best beer on UBC campus, and are just waiting to collect a few more samples, for statistical purposes of course.

I (Joel) was interviewed on a podcast to discuss the chemistry of malt, hops and yeast that contribute to the delicious beverage we all enjoy. Check it out!

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Happy Halloween!

Every year the graduate students and staff in the UBC Chemistry Department show that scientists can be artistic too with a pumpkin carving contest. This year the MacLachlan group decided to use Mark’s nickname, Mark the Shark, as inspiration for a shark shaped pumpkin. We came second by one point to the Wolf group who themed their pumpkin around the show Breaking Bad. Here are some photos of the pumpkins in the competition.


The MacLachlan Group pumpkin – Mark the Shark

The winning pumpkin - Breaking Bad

The winning pumpkin – Breaking Bad


Sugar pumpkin

Sugar pumpkin


Death star pumpkin

Death star pumpkin

IMG_0967 IMG_0951 IMG_0950

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Crabby nanostructures

By Thanh Nguyen

Chitin nanofibers are an abundant, renewable resource from waste crab shells. Chitin fibers from specific crab shells are arranged in a way that gives it unique properties, providing the fascinating idea of preparing nanomaterials in the lab that mimic this structure by using crab shells as a sustainable template.

Our group recently developed a way to use chitin derived from king crab shells as an intriguing template for constructing silica (the material glass and sand are composed of) and organosilica with interesting properties published in Chemistry – A European Journal, 2013, Volume 19, 15148-15154. All of the king crab shells we used were obtained from Vancouver seafood restaurants!

We prepared chitin nanocrystals that have a rod shape using chitin fibers isolated from the king crab shells. These nanocrystals were then arranged into an organized, layered structure using specific conditions detailed in the paper. Once the nanocrystals are air dried a highly organized chitin solid film was produced. Thus, the layered organization of the chitin nanocrystal template can be transferred into other solids, such as silica and organosilica, offering access to new materials.


To use the chitin as a template, precursors for silica were added to the chitin to produce composites of silica/chitin. Interestingly, large, crack-free silica films with sizes of several centimeters were obtained after removal of the chitin template from the composites by either heating to high temperatures or using acid. These silica materials have organized structures which mimic the structure of the crab shells (see figure).

Mesoporous Silica and Organosilica Films Templated by Nanocrystalline Chitin. Nguyen, T.-D.; Shopsowitz, K. E.; MacLachlan, M. J. Chem. Eur. J. 2013, 19, 15148–15154.

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Novel PPV/Mesoporous Organosilica Composites

By Hessam Mehr

We have made an exciting new composite material in our lab. In a composite material, two or more chemicals are finely mingled without changing their identity, just like raisins and dough in raisin cookies, to make a new and interesting material!

In this case, the dough is made of glass full of tiny, twisted pores and the raisins are a plastic material, or polymer, called PPV. Short for poly(p-phenylene vinylene), PPV is special because it gives off a beautiful green glow under blue light, a phenomenon known as fluorescence.


Working with PPV is tricky because it doesn’t melt or soften up in solvents. This means that in order to mix the glass and PPV together, like the dough and raisins, there is no easy way of taking a piece of PPV and squeezing it into the tiny holes in the glass. We had to use a trick discovered by chemists in 1998 to put the molecular building blocks of PPV, or its monomers, together right inside the holes.

Like when using a mould, the tiny pieces of PPV that we form this way have the same twisted shape as the pores they started life in.

Novel PPV/Mesoporous Organosilica Composites: Influence of the Host Chirality on a Conjugated Polymer Guest.  Mehr, S. H. M.; Giese, M.; Qi, H.; Shopsowitz, K. E.; Hamad, W. Y.; MacLachlan, M. J. Langmuir 201329, 12579–12584.

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Happy Mole Day Everyone!

Happy Mole Day Everyone!

The UBC Chemistry students are selling a periodic table of cupcakes to celebrate!

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